WASHINGTON — The U.S. Coast Guard released a $1.57 billion wish list to lawmakers that prioritizes “rebuilding operational capability” as the service continues a hefty modernization push to enable more complex missions.
At the top of the list is $138.5 million for one multimission HC-130J aircraft. These aircraft are outfitted with the sensors and command-and-control systems for long-range surveillance assignments in addition to airlift and other traditional C-130 missions. The Coast Guard states it is three short of its program of record of 22 airframes and is asking for one of these three aircraft in this unfunded priorities list to Congress.
Next on the list is $113 million to outfit and assemble four MH-60T helicopters. The Coast Guard has been working through a life-extension effort on its MH-60T fleet, swapping out the hulls, electrical wiring and some moving components like the main rotor blades, to take these 20,000 flight-hour aircraft — a planned service life that many of the aircraft are already approaching — and extending them to 40,000 flight hours.
Third on the prioritized list is $34 million to cover a shortfall in the Fast Response Cutter program. The service faces a gap in funding for 20 ships and spare parts due to “the unprecedented rise in material and labor” associated with the contract.
The Coast Guard’s unfunded priorities list is meant to highlight critical efforts not included in the regular budget request, released in early March. That ask totaled $13.45 billion, including $10.22 billion for operations and support and $1.55 billion for procurement, construction and improvements.
The largest single item on the new wish list list is $400 million for four additional Fast Response Cutters. The new ships would “further the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States through expanded presence and engagement to promote a free an open Indo-Pacific,” service officials wrote. “Additional FRCs will begin to transform the Coast Guard from an organization which currently provides episodic presence, to be persistent and visible, strengthening coordination with allied and partner nations to bolster regional security.”
The request also includes a total of $323 million for various infrastructure upgrade projects, helping ports accommodate the new cutters being fielded during this modernization period. It contains $130 million for an indoor recruit training facility at Training Center Cape May, N.J., and $26 million for housing at Kodiak, Alaska.
Megan Eckstein is the naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when she’s filing stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumna.